Matt Marshall

10 Posts with Tag minimalism (All tags)

28 May 2018, 00:00

A List of Stuff I Own (May 2018)

I recently decided to do an inventory of all my things that I have in my flat. This list is meant to represent a snapshot of how things look when I'm at home on an average evening / day. I'm sure I've left stuff out. The goal is to post something like this every so often and reflect on the things I have.

This list is organised by location, and then sublocation. It's designed to help me make sense of where my clutter lives. I've left out wall decorations, house plants, and clothes; as I want to make a separate post about clothes and the others are carefully curated anyway.

A quick Ctrl+F of the source code for this post reveals I have 282 items. I want to be clear I don't think there is a magic number of items I'm trying to achieve, but this is a lot more than I expected. And I haven't even considered clothes.

Bedroom

Walls + Floor

  • hiking / day-wear boots
  • 'deck' shoes
  • training shoes
  • black washcloth
  • tenugui handtowel
  • black handtowel
  • 5x reusable carrier bags, assorted capacities
  • 2x black bandanas

Wardrobe

  • rope
  • bergen backpack
  • canvas satchel
  • travel compact clothes bag
  • laundry basket
  • day bag

Door hanger

  • thermal jacket
  • shemagh / keffiyeh: western-style (brown)
  • shemagh / keffiyeh: saudi style (red + white, dyed black)
  • shemagh / keffiyeh: palestine style (black + white, tassled)
  • polish
  • black hoodie

Shelf

  • dremel + bits
  • drill bits
  • sinew thread
  • leather awl
  • thick needle assortment
  • respirator
  • respirator
  • safety goggles
  • plant seeds
  • drill bit set
  • plant food
  • mess tins
  • large camping knife
  • corded drill
  • pyrography set
  • scrap leather (used as protection when carving)
  • stock leatger (10mm and 4mm thicknesses)
  • assorted sandpaper sheets
  • measuring jug
  • steel ruler
  • files x3
  • assorted plastic ring sizers
  • blowtorch head
  • IKEA furniture keys
  • coping saw
  • hacksaw
  • fancy dipping pen
  • yarn + naalbinding needle
  • tin camping mug
  • talc powder
  • waterproof poncho
  • store brand disinfectant
  • butane gas
  • silicon waterproofing spray
  • surface cleaner
Large tin used for storage
  • 13x assorted pieces of bone (cleaned, stock for carving)
  • vanilla fragrance Oil
  • mango fragrance oil
  • apple fragance oil
  • 100ml amber bottle with dropper
  • 3x 50ml amber bottle
  • 3x ingots of beeswax (~2g each)
  • screwdriver w/ wooden handle
  • 35 ml measuring cup
  • 2x steel hipflask fillers (for pouring oil)
  • 2x pencils
  • 2x rolls of electrical tape
  • ram's horn (cleaned)
  • lump of calcite (carving stock)
  • rough carved bone jewelry (mjolnir necklace)
  • hex key

Really useful box

  • leather cord
  • black paracord
  • electronic screwdriver set
  • craft knife
  • wood chisels x 5
  • binder clips x6
  • steel ring sizer
  • essential oil: lemon
  • essential oil: eucalyptus
  • essential oil: cedarwood
  • essential oil: bergamot
  • essential oil: wintergreen
  • essential oil: peppermint
  • essential oil: petitgrain
  • essential oil: lime
  • essential oil: tea tree
  • essential oil: birch
  • essential oil: orange

TV stand

  • laptop
  • laptop stand
  • ps4
  • hard drive
  • television
  • surge protector
  • V's blanket
  • Black blanket
  • floor cushion
  • floor cushion

Chest of Drawers

  • Bin

Drawer 0

  • clothes

Drawer 1

  • Current clothes
  • Bike pump

  • Suncream

  • Moisturiser
  • Dusters
  • Titanium Beard comb
  • steel beard comb
  • cartridge razor suspended in oil
  • Beard oil
Day Box
  • Runes
  • custom notebook
  • pocket notebook
  • Front door keys
  • Wallet
  • Opinel pocket knife
  • Glasses with case
  • mirror
  • boat keys
  • back door + marina keys
  • ditty bag (empty)
  • pencil case with pen, pencil, ruler
  • butane lighter
  • mystery key
  • compass + V's hair
  • beard beards x3
  • thread
  • box
Beard Box
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil
  • Oil

Drawer 2

B's drawer. Wilderness

Drawer 3

  • Ps3
  • mini USB cable (for ps3 controller)
  • micro USB cable (for ps4 controller)

  • Bracers thick

  • bracers thin
  • black tie
  • red washcloth
  • red hand towel
  • jumper/sweater
  • swimming trunks
  • formal trousers
  • Grey hoodie
  • purple hand towel
  • white tee
  • black jogging trousers
Games
  • Ps4 Crash trilogy
  • Ps4 Fallout 4
  • Ps4 Skyrim
  • Ps4 Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Ps4 Borderlands Handsome Collection
  • Ps4 Lego Star Wars Ep 7

  • Ps3 God of War Collection

  • Ps3 Metal Gear HD collection
  • Ps3 MGS4
  • Ps3 MGS5 Ground Zeroes
  • Ps3 MGS5 Phantom Pain
  • Ps3 Assassin' Creed 2
  • Ps3 Assassin' Creed 3
  • Ps3 Assassin' Creed 4

  • Ps2 Soul Reaver 2

  • Ps2 MGS 2
Grooming Kit
  • beard trimmer
  • clippers
  • cleaning brush for clippers
  • clippers mains charger
  • beard trimmer mains charger
  • badger brush
  • dove soap
  • hair scissors
  • cartridge razor base
  • toenail clippers

Bedside Table

  • lamp
  • decorative statues
  • steel water bottle
  • Phone
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers

Drawer 0

  • ocarina
  • backup drive
  • spare earbud ends
  • hard drive + USB keys
  • medicine box
  • studio headphones
  • TV remote
  • ps4 controller
  • ps3 controller
  • kindle
  • USB cables w/ ditty bags
  • documents w/ wallet
Tin
  • Gopro w/ pouch
  • Sewing pins
  • backup phone
  • portable battery
  • measuring tape
  • spare usb charger
  • vapour rub
  • spare bike keys
  • black sewing thread
  • NA plug converter
  • EU plug converter
  • EU plug for USB charger
  • passport
  • sewing kit in tin
  • Barclaycard
  • Newcastle library card
  • Anthony Nolan card
  • ehic card
  • HSBC main account card
  • ucu membership card
  • CPB membership card
  • organ donor card

Drawer 1

  • bike lock
  • sex toys
  • lubricant
  • condoms
  • bike rear light

Under Bed

  • Steel bowl
  • USB mains charger
  • USB C cable
  • Micro USB csble

Books

  • Convict Conditioning (CC)
  • CC 2
  • CC 3
  • C-Mass
  • naked warrior
  • complete calisthenics
  • competent crew skills
  • sailing essentials
  • yachtmaster scheme
  • scrapbook

Day Bag

  • Cutlery
  • Lip balm
  • USB cables
  • Audio recorder
  • Spare keyring rings
  • Hi-vis jacket (for cycling)
  • Hi-vis arm band (for cycling)
  • Lunch Box
  • Water bottle
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers

Bathroom

  • Dove soap
  • Black handtowel
  • Toothbrush + case
  • Toothpaste

Kitchen

  • decorative drinking horn
  • whiskey glass
  • pewter stein
  • ramikens x4
  • Chinese bowls x2
  • Chinese soup spoon x2
  • Chinese condiment bowl x2
  • mandolin
  • lunchbox
  • plastic food storage x10
  • bamboo reusable cloths x5
  • slow cooker
  • hand blender
  • food defrosting plate
  • sushi hangiri
  • sushi nigiri press
  • spider
  • bamboo rolling mat
  • silicon rolling mat
  • engraved spatula "sushi"
  • engraved wooden sushi board

Sitting Room

  • Camping chair
  • ab wheel
  • "Henchgripz" horizontal bar
  • resistance bands x4 (assorted strength)
  • wooden board game set
  • hnefatafl board
  • battleships set
  • carved walking stick
  • solstice tree (stored)
  • solstice tree decorations (stored)

stuff minimalism clutter list items

04 Jul 2018, 08:59

Brief reflections on my relationship with photos

As part of my 'leaving behind Google' process, combined with my minimalism journey, I recently exported and curated an entire archive of photographs I've collected. They're mostly concentrated around 2011 -- 2015, but there are a few even back to 2008 from my days doing stage shows and there's another little concecntration more recently from when I finally upgraded my smartphone.

I learned a few things about what I value from this process. I downloaded all the images, imported them into Shotwell to have it automatically sort them by date where it can, and then traipsed through chronologically to sort the wheat from the chaff. it took around two hours, which was a lot longer than expected. The tl;dr version of this is that "I don't need to keep around 90% of the photos I do take", my thoughts behind this are below.

I take a lot of photographs of landscapes and buildings that I don't actually care about

Whenever I go on an adventure out somewhere like a city, or the cliffs, or an abandoned building, I've almost compulsively took photographs across the day. I say the word compulsively because the impulse to photograph things does not come naturally to me. I was late to the smartphone game and until recently the camera on my phone has been subpar. Since catching up, I've been feeling the need to 'document' my journeys and this has involved taking a lot of photographs of stuff like beautiful landscapes and buildings that I appreciate. Thing is, I don't actually care about these photographs.

Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate a good building or landscape and if you show me photographs you've taken I will absolutely sit and listen and look at the image whole-heartedly. It's just that, once I've sat and appreciated a good view I don't often feel the need to revisit it. I deleted most of my photographs of mountains, sunrises at the beach, and cityscapes. I kept a few, but these were really heavily tied to personal achievements and much more representational of a point in time than anything else.

I care a lot more about people and stories than I do about places and events

Related to above, the photographs I found myself keeping were the ones featuring myself with others. Turns out the people in my life are much more important to me than the fact I've had a day out somewhere, or saw a nice building. Most of my fond memories are tied with visiting friends, or going out on adventures with them. I like spending time alone as well, which is why I deleted a lot of empty landscapes and selfies, but whenever I came across a photograph of myself and a loved one together it was often my favourite photo of that time period.

The same holds true for stories vs events. I don't care so much for a "Visited Niagara Falls" photograph of the falls, I care about a group picture that we took that acts as a prompt for me to tell myself or tell another the story of the creepy food court staffed by probably-ghosts. Sometimes the story is a selfie of me pulling a stupid face atop a mountain. But yeah -- I kept all the photographs of myself and others doing stuff.

I prefer it when others take photographs of me

I'm not a particularly good photographer, although sometimes modern cameras can compensate for that. I've grown accustomed to selfies but I'm still not overly comfortable with them and for that reason I prefer it when others take photographs of me. That way I have documentation of myself from another's perspective. It also makes me feel valued that they'd consider taking a photograph of me.

Also, and this is no small part, it means I get a photograph of a story without having to deal with all the other photographs in another person's collection.

Most of my photos are purely utilitarian

Around 80% of my photographs are taken for a single-use, disposable purpose (is there a comparison with one-use plastics there?). Most of the time that purpose is "Hey look at the thing!". Since I quit Facebook, it's been less about sharing to the masses and more about messaging specific people about a thing I want to show them. Stuff like "My lunch is much better than yours" or "Look at this thing I've just spotted on the street". It's like picture messaging a la snapchat but because I don't actually use snapchat, the image sticks around on my phone and makes its way into my collection when imported.

I can live in the moment a lot more

I mentioned earlier than I take a lot of photographs of beautiful scenery. I've somehow associated appreciating something beautiful with archiving it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I've just expended energy taking the photo only to never look at it and then expend more energy deleting it later.

What I'm taking from this is that I can take that energy and transfer it into experiencing the moment a lot more. I already do appreciate a good scene-as-it-happens, but if I walk in with the knowledge that I don't need to take a photograph of it, I think I'll be more inclined to appreciate it.

I need a photo mode that allows me to share-and-forget

I need a mode in apps and cameras that allow me to take a photograph to show people a thing, on various platforms/services, and then instantly delete the local copy of the photo so it never makes its way to a collection. If anyone knows an app like this, please let me know.

reflection minimalism data curation photography values

01 Aug 2018, 10:09

Quick thoughts on Minimalist Design Patterns for Brimstone

Minimalism is one of the inspirations I draw from when hacking at Brimstone. So far this has manifested by removing things like excessive UI elements, cumbersome Javascript and CSS frameworks (thankfully PureCSS exists), and streamlining things such as how Posts work and are displayed.

I had a thought recently when considering the About page, and how a more minimal approach might look. At the moment, the approach is still relatively minimal; the UserProfile object has a field which can store text used to render the About page using markdown. If it's null or empty, the templates don't render a link to the About page and the controller redirects any attempts to directly go to /about to the index page.

How then, do I think it may be improved? Obviously these are rough ideas -- I also don't think there's anything explicitly wrong with the way things are done currently. What might seem simple to me might not be simple to others, and in fact I think there's an argument that these design patterns could add complexity in some regards.

Under both of the following proposals, the UserProfile object has the about attribute removed, and controller logic is changed to accommodate the new pattern.

Idea 1 - Using a Post for an About Page

Under the current design, the About page is simply a text field containing markdown that is rendered when the visitor calls /about. This works basically exactly the same as a Post but is a bit less versatile e.g. Posts store a lastModified attribute which can inform the reader if/when the Post was last edited and give some idea of freshness.

Under this design pattern, Post receives a new boolean attribute which marks it as the About page. A form or button is implemented, along with a controller to handle elevating a Post to this position with the following logic:

post = post // from controller
previousAbout = searchPosts(where: about == true)

if ( previousAbout is not null ):
    previousAbout.setAbout(false)
fi

post.setAbout(true)

return new Response(200)

The About page template can actually remain, with the controller simply changing the variable it passes into it to achieve the goal. Another consideration, however, is the header templates logic when choosing to render an /about link. Currently it utilises a UserProfile object already passed in to the template which is used for H-Card generation and Site titles as well as visible elements such as the name and profile image. Since the UserProfile object also contains the About page, it simply checks to see if it's null or not to decide whether to render the /about link. If I made the About page a Post, the controller would need to inform the template separately, unless the UserProfile maintained a 1-to-1 relationship with a single post, which is nullable. This changes the previous controller logic above to:

post = post // from controller
userProfile = user.getProfile()

userProfile.setAbout(post)

return new Response(200)

Which I actually prefer. The UserProfile still has an about attribute, but it's a reference to pre-existing content and can be switched without a search of the database and it prevents duplication; where since Post already contains the necessary attributes for a good About page it makes sense to leverage it.

Idea 2 - Using a tag for an About Page

This one also utilises Posts, but with a slight twist. Instead of elevating a single Post to become an About page, what if we simply used a Tag? That way, the user could add content to their about page on-the-fly simply by tagging a Post with an about tag?

I don't think this is without issues -- for example how do you order things? What about reordering things on the page? How about editing posts, you have to hunt them down (admittedly just a search for the tag about…)? There's also the issue of the header rendering the /about link from earlier -- this means every controller needs to do a search for Posts tagged with about and check the length of that result, to decide.

I'm sure there's a way around this, and I really like the idea of a cumulative About page which can be made up of otherwise disparate content, for now I'm going to try out Idea 1 and see how that goes.

Last Modified: 01 Aug 2018, 10:10

development brimstone minimalism php minimalist design design patterns web design

19 Oct 2016, 08:05

Thinking about 'Stuff'

I've been thinking about stuff and my relationship with it. It mostly kicked off when I read Rhiaro's post about nomadism, but if I reflect a bit then I think it's been brewing for a while.

Unlike Rhiaro, I am not a nomad. I like visiting new places, and I love the romanticised concept of 'travelling' but there's always been a financial and a class barrier to me engaging on that type of physical journey (for the most part). She would disagree, but I tend to think that overly-romanticised travel is pretty classist. My experiences have always, therefore, lent themselves to building up a 'home base'. A sanctuary (sounds pretentious but emotionally I think that's probably most accurate) into which I can retreat during anabolic periods of my life.

This obviously lends itself to having more stuff. I moved to my flat Sep 2011 and brought with me three books, a new desk lamp, my clothes (which all fit into a single chest of drawers), my desktop computer, my laptop, a desk and chair. A year later, my desktop was deceased and I had a new laptop. I also brought in my bookcase with all its books. As my experiences grew I needed to acquire more and more things to deal with them; formal date? New shirt (cheap). Winter? Coat. The room in my flat certainly isn't the smallest room I've ever had but it's gotten to feel a bit more cramped as time has progressed.

My point is that, although I totally love the idea of minimalism and I extoll any philosophy which encourages us to stop buying stuff we don't need or truly want; stuff like challenging yourself to own less than 100 things is going to lend itself to spending more in-the-moment as you prepare for less eventualities. Unless your minimalism is incredibly functional, it's a middle-class minimalism for those who can afford in very literal terms to be flexible with their situation. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding minimalism, but it seems to me that if plan a day out and don't bring a pack with a water bottle and some food then you're saying you can afford to spend that in-the-moment without much thought to your financial situation. Maybe it's not a lot of money for you to drop £10 on lunch that day, but that £10 for some people could be put to better use. I am definitely guilty of this.

Aside from deriding the middle-class form of minimalism, I do appreciate the aesthetic of less clutter. I do, however, have to juxtapose this for my love of personal effects and boxes of ephemera both aesthetically and emotionally. I love when you walk into someone's house and they have stuff that they've clearly had and cared for; for years! I love that just by being owned by a person, a mass-produced item can take on a personality and characteristics from its mundane place in the lives of people. People have experiences and histories, which can usually be captured by the items they associate with them. Treasure chests of memories are a trope for a reason.

On that note, my colleague and comrade @tripsandflips and I had a discussion about this the other day and she made an interesting point which got me thinking about that. Books aren't books if they're not being read. The more I think about it, the more I agree with this sentiment. As much as I love stuff's history, I think I have trouble letting go. Some of the books on my bookshelf haven't been touched in years. Some of them are very special to me, but as I think about them I begin to realise that it's the story that they contain that is special. I might release them from their shelfy prison to let them be books again. I've come up with a solution to help them on their journey as well -- instead of using the first page to claim ownershop of a book ie "This book belongs to XYZ", I'm going to try and start off logging the tome's personal history. I'll write "This book has been enjoyed by Matt Marshall" and encourage others to leave their mark. I think that'll be a good practice to try and start.

My final point of tension is that I've begun my journey into crafting and trying to produce things for myself an others. This in itself lends to having multiple tools and stores of materials around. I used to get around my desire to craft by telling myself "Programming is your craft. Go build cool digital stuff!". I can no longer do that, though. I need to smell the beard oil and feel the bone dust caught in my pores.

I'm not sure where this ramble through my thoughts on stuff has lead. If I was truly honest with myself, I'd say it's probably a precursor to my taking a census of everything I own that isn't stored food. So... expect lists I suppose?

diary stuff reflection minimalism classism

06 Jan 2017, 17:34

Thoughts on Minimalism, Zero Waste, and Class

Over the last few weeks I've been going through something of change as I become determined to declutter everything and regain some of the peace of mind that I've lost as I've accumulated half a decade's worth of stuff in my flat. This entry is very much just getting a few thoughts rattling around my head and onto 'paper' so that I can sleep at night in peace.

I've always had a cognitive dissonance regarding Minimalism. At first glance, I find the execution of the lifestyle incredibly classist -- a lot of modern minimalism focuses on condensing your old items into digital equivalents. The prime example is the bookshelf becoming the eReader (usually the Kindle because branding grumble grumble). Now, I know that thanks to the 'miracle' of modern Capitalism that personal electronics are cheaper than ever (ie don't insult refugees for having smartphones) but the digital divide is totally a thing and has class implications. Amazon (that paragon of virtue) do sell their eReader at a relatively low cost but £56 (as of writing) is still a lot of money, especially if you're struggling to get by. On minimum wage in the UK that would take basically an entire full working shift to earn. And that's presuming you're working that long and consistently, what with zero hour contracts destroying the ability of the working class to do much of anything except beg for hours from their employer. The middle-class person could easily adopt minimalism; just grab their eReader and destroy the book shelf. That initial investment still remains a potential barrier to access to many Proles, however.

Side note: Sorry for the multiple Guardian links, I'm not the biggest fan of The Guardian (white middle class liberalism for the most part) but their journalism isn't too bad and they're often within the first few links of a DuckDuckGo search on a given topic since they're broadsheet and cover a lot of issues

What I do like about minimalism (aside from some aesthetics) is that is does begin to remove one from consumerism to a degree. The main danger, of course, is falling into a trap of going on a spending spree in order to transition to the lifestyle (see above Kindle). If executed with reflection and care, however, I understand the lifestyle to discourage unnecessary spending as a habit and encourage reflection. Which could often lead to personal realisations about the effects consumerism on one's life as a rudimentary form of class conciousness. Maybe? I also enjoy how minimalism encourages creativity in thinking about space and its ability to be reconfigured given the right equipment (again, given the right equipment... barrier to access right there). I've been lucky in that I live in a ground floor flat with one other person for the last few years, and we haven't generally fight for control of communal space. Lately, however, our social dynamic has been changing somewhat and I find myself being more and more reluctant to leave my room -- the ability to reconfigure the space would be of extreme benefit in allowing me to dissociate its various functions and get into various 'modes' (e.g. sleep, work, relax etc).

Zero Waste kinda appealed to me a while ago since I've always been fairly against waste in theory but have felt paralysed to execute it properly. As Commie, I also think that Zero Waste as it's been presented to me is overly liberal, and borders on the neoliberal. Lauren from Trash is for Tossers even says in her Tedx talk that "[She] lives this lifestyle for [her]". Obviously, it's better for the planet -- and she says in her talk that consumers are not being given a choice in some cases (e.g. cleaning products) but in other cases she simply switched to farmers' markets, weigh houses etc. for her food. What if you're living in city suburbs where they're not available? We have a single market that closes at the end of the day (y'know, when most people are still at work). Proles often can't afford to bulk buy, and often they can't afford to shop in places other than the supermarket for their food. What about the packaging used for bulk food? The onus should be on institutions for waste production, and they should be removing barriers to engaging with minimal waste. The 5p bag tax has done wonders in the UK, but surely it should be the supermarkets paying for it? They should be giving out paper bags, or canvas bags at a reduced cost, shouldn't they? Instead it's the consumer that bears the cost of when the forgot to grab their bag. My proposed model: tax the supermarkets on their consumption of plastic, and force them to offer discounts to people who bring in bags, which they've been able to acquire cheaply.

That all being said, I've always been a fan of thinking differently about waste, and repurposing things. I celebrate the Zero Waste movement for fighting back and demonstrating alternatives, as much as I deride them for being overly liberal in appearing to place the blame squarely on the individual.

The reflection-y bit.

If I think about these two things, I'm definitely gearing more and more towards them as shifts in my day-to-day operation. I'll never be entirely minimalist - but I want my space and possesions to have a purpose. I'll never be entirely zero waste until the revolution comes and waste is minimised by the state processes of my glorious Communist Utopia. I rarely drink hot drinks on-the-go. I already drink water from a steel bottle instead of buying it, and I do my shopping with a backpack and a tote bag. Occasionally I need a plastic one, but that's growing much less frequent. Might be my goal to reduce it to zero entirely?

I want my space to be configurable, and my possessions to have an explicit purpose. I will need back-ups, so as to be Anti-fragile, but less stuff means more flexible with situation; means less tying me to a physical location; means more mobile.

I want to contribute to the trend of ecological awareness and reducing environmental impact by reducing household waste. I might keep a waste diary, actually. Anyway, expect a little bit more from me on this relatively soon as I simplify and repurpose my living habits :-)

minimalism classism class zerowaste liberalism

10 Mar 2017, 09:12

Journalling 007 -- Levelling up, a roadmap for myself

Today I'm going off-piste and giving myself my own journalling prompt. Last year I read the book Level up Your Life by NerdFitness founder Steve Kamb. The book, whilst very nicely written, is essentially just a swiss army knife style summary of some of the things I've also been reading over the last few years. Namely, it contained a very condensed version of the Campbell's Hero's Journey, some advice on goal setting, a bit of minimalist philosophy, and a (relatively) low barrier to access exercise regime in order to allow people to "live a life of adventure". I should note that whilst I enjoyed the book, it read very much like the "if I did it so can you" that is common amongst white middle-class cisstraight males. THere was a good section covering different socio-economic circumstances, and Kamb did a good job of pointing out others who could act as mentors for those with different backgrounds, but I feel that this is worth noting.

All in all, I enjoyed the book as it served as a very good summary of a lot of other things I'd been reading such as Happiness By Design, some minimalist stuff, and even The Spirit Level. Also worth a note is Homo Deus as it also covers some of the same themes in part.

The common themes in the books was that purpose is an essential part of how we derive joy in our life. Both from our actions (we could speak of Marx's theory of Alienation as well here…) as well as the objects around us. I've since embarked on a de-cluttering mission designed to evaluate each of the objects that I have about my personal space and get rid of the things I don't need. On the other hand, this has also involved an evaluation of personal habits that I want to affect change in. Unfortunately, the change I want to engage in occasionally requires that I purchase or otherwise bring new items (shudder) into my life. The fact I want to save money towards a mortgage doesn't help with this cognitive dissonance.

To get around this, I've began utilising Kamb's concept of "Levelling up" with my purchases. A purchase that I make should enable me to do something. This can be making an existing process more efficient, in attempt to reach a grander goal, or can allow me to do something new within the context of an existing hobby (e.g. a new pull-up assistance band). This post, therefore, is a way of cataloguing all of the things I have floating around in my head and how I think that they will level me up in various aspects of my life.

Bike Gear

I recently got a bicycle from the charity that I work with, for my consistent volunteering on Mondays. The reason I wanted a bike in the first place was to make me more mobile, without having to invest in learning how to drive or actually get a car. As I exist primarily in urban areas, it's relatively easy to peddle around a my bike affords me cardiovascular exercise, recreational activity, and increased mobility between places (and therefore a net saving on time spent travelling).

At first, my bike sat unused for a month or so, then I began to take it on recreational trips. I couldn't use it for commuting, since it didn't have a lock. After a few recreational trips, I purchased a lock and some lights in order to be able to use it for quick jaunts to and from the city centre, and to local supermarkets (obviously role-played in my head as scouting and supply missions). What follows is a brief summary of my envisioned level ups for my bike:

  1. Helmet, will make me feel more confident using the city's roads as means of travelling more effectively throughout the city
  2. Hi-Viz Vest I am changing my clothes habits to be more layer based. A Hi-Viz jacket will combine with the helmet and the lights to make me more confident on the city's roads, as well as enable safer night cycling. Such mobility!
  3. Bike multitool Will allow me to perform basic maintenance on the bike, as by this point I will have invested enough points into it that it'll begin to get used quite frequently and thus see some wear and tear.
  4. Spare inner tubes and hand pump Punctures happen. Spare inner tubes, combined with the multitool, will allow me to adapt to dangers on the road. Puncture repair kits are a bit naff. This adaptability also increases me roaming and exploration capacity for when I'm out just riding, as opposed to commuting or travelling.
  5. Panniers These will allow the bike to become a much more effective transport steed, allowing me to perform much better-planned shopping trips.
  6. Phone case By this point, discounting any unforeseen requirements, I will have made myself quite secure and adaptable on the bike and it's time to take some longer journeys. A phone case that straps to my handle bars will allow me to plot longer journeys to commute between the city centre and some of the outskirts, as well as the outlying towns and places of interest.

The next question I need to answer is how do I determine when I've earned the level-up? I obviously don't want to fall into the trap of just buying a whole bunch of bike gear and then never using it. I've obviously started to use it, but I think that every month I should have clocked up so many trips on the bike based on what I want to use it for: recreation and commuting. There's no magic number during the month, but consistency should be the key element.

Cooking and diet

One of my current goals is to consistently ensure that I am not just defaulting to purchasing lunch at work when I could have prepared a meal. I bought a slow cooker some time ago, and have recently began using it again very consistently. Whilst I definitely enjoy the act of cooking things, when it's required in order to prepare a meal later I prefer to batch-cook and reduce the amount of labour required when it's divided across meals.

Since returning from Madrid, I've been really into making chilli in my slow cooker. This is good. Combined with the increased mobility from my bicycle I've been able to retrieve supplies and cook them really effectively. A quick reflection over my cooking practices has shown that this has been key in preventing me from defaulting to delicious yet unhealthy and expensive takeaway food. The fact that I know am ok with fasting in the evenings has also contributed to this. Where I've been falling down, however, and causing myself some stress, is that I require a means of cooking the carbohydrate portion I enjoy with meals (generally rice or potatoes) whilst minimising the attention I need to pay to pots boiling over.

On a Friday and Saturday, I also treat myself to a large bag of crisps. I've largely been successful in reducing snacking, but it's been creeping back in. Some way to increase the healthiness of the snacks is required, that isn't overly labour intensive.

  1. Rice Cooker I've been banging on about getting one of these for absolutely ages. I really want one. The ability to just turn it on, and then do something else for 20 minutes whilst the rice cooks will mean the absolute world to me. Combined with my slow cooker, this would effectively reduce the cognitive effort required to plan and produce my lunchtime meals to near-zero, with delicious results.
  2. Mandolin Something I've fancied for a little while, but haven't been able to justify until recently. A Mandolin will allow me to slice vegetables really thinly, which make for good sandwiches (good for scouting missions to the cliffs), and more importantly: good for crisps. I absolutely adore crisps, to the point where I have zero portion control. If I could offset the cost of crisps to producing them myself it would be good. I am not alienated from the product and thus lose an element of consumerism, and I get a bit more control over what I put into my body. Seems like a win win.

There are various other specialist items I want, but can't quite justify yet so I won't even mention them. In terms of determining when I've earned the level, I think that a similar approach to my mobility levels will be appropriate. This probably means I can get my rice cooker soon (in fact I am going to) since I've been realllly consistent with my slow cooker this year. I've only bought lunch on special occasions, where I've already brought in my chilli! The mandolin I can get some other time, really. One thing I'd like to try and do, though, is cook something like a curry in my slow cooker. That would be a good way to make the most of it.

Home space and Minimalism

It sounds really weird to say that you want to purchase things in order to become more minimalist, and in fact that's often my problem with the diehard approaches that people take to it. This section stems, therfore, from the relationships I have with my physical space at the moment and the ones that I desire to have in the near-future.

I've always enjoyed a reconfigurability for space. I like the idea that you can make the most out of something by just shifting some things around. I also enjoy large open spaces, which is difficult when you're trapped in the smaller bedroom of a flat. Unfortunately this requires some equipment to facilitate this reconfiguration.

  1. Electronics Trolley I don't much care what the material is, but a small trolley that would replace my main desk with the ability to move would be a fantastic thing for me. Currently, I envision that this allows me to enjoy the space of my flat's communal space whilst other people are engaging with the main television there. The trolley would contain my games consoles, a space for my laptop, and a power strip; being topped by the smaller television that I essentially use as a monitor. In the mornings, I could wheel this out of my bedroom into the front room to play games whilst my partner watches netflix on my laptop, or if I wanted to work she could keep the trolley in the room whilst I took the laptop to work on.

  2. Hard drives and USB pens Having recently experienced a catastrophic drive failure, resulting in the loss of nearly all of my personal data history from 2010 -- present, this is a sore one for me. Currently, I have a 500GB external drive sat on my desk that requires power, and is pretty static. We mainly use it to watch The Simpsons of an evening, but it's useful for quick back-ups etc. My problem with it is that it takes up room, and requires a separate plug in the power strip. Replacing this with a 1TB 2.5" drive would make this more portable and require less power. It also turns out that my television can accept a USB input. With USB pens being relatively inexpensive these days, I can envision a dedicated USB pen for TV shows (ie cartoons) so that I don't need to power both my TV and laptop in order to engage in our nightly rituals. The smaller drives would allow them to be stored away in drawers for space saving as well.

  3. Futon The big one. I'm talking about a proper Japanese futon as opposed to the ones associated with Ikea (not that I have a problem with those). My reasons for this being that I find sleeping close to ground very comfortable, and there are numerous health benefits to sleeping on the floor. The futon will provide a degree of comfort in exchange for a slight reduction in health benefits (a net gain compared to a bed) but, excitingly, is designed to be rolled up and stored when not in use. This basically allows me to reclaim the space taken up by a bed, prevents me from laying on the bed during the day (and therefore not sleeping), as well as providing a nice nightly ritual that signals to me that it's bed time.

These are all relatively big purchases, and I wouldn't be making them for a little while yet. Especially since all of them explicitly require new purchases to be brought into my home. In order to level up to these things, I want to have gotten rid of swathe of things first.

Clothes

I'm generally really good with clothes as I don't go clothes shopping a lot. In terms of the 'levelling up' aspect of this part of my life, though, sometimes I like to change my clothes around a bit for variety and to experiment. I don't think this is unique at all, and everyone does it. Eventually, I want to create a capsule wardrobe which I can just continually wear, and provide a lot of variety.

The main thing that I noticed when evaluating my wardrobe, however, is that I actually currently own less items of clothing than recommended by most minimalist guides! The reason for this is that I am fortunate enough to have a working environment in academia that is relatively relaxed in terms of the clothes that I wear. I've never owned a full suit, partly due to this and also partly due to the investment being useless since my body changes constantly due to training (mainly waist growth, although that's levelled off for the moment). Similarly, I've outgrown all of my old shirts and never bothered to replace them. I mainly exist in a state of switching between Workman's trousers, Cargo trousers, and a variety of tees.

Whilst happy with this, I did mention that I crave a bit more variety, and I also think that I can condense a few of my duplicate tees into a few nicer quality ones, that fit better and have been made by slightly-better-paid slave children (I joke but this really upsets me that it's difficult to escape this practice).

  1. Tees I used to by my tees from Primark due to their inexpensiveness and liking the cut. As my body has filled out thanks to push-ups the tees, even when bought larger, have begun to hang off my body in a way that I don't necessarily like all the time. I recently played with getting a plain tee from Gildan, and I like it much better. It fits good, I like the colour, and the cotton is of higher quality so it actually feels nice on my skin and I don't overheat. In future I would like to replace my Primark tees with Gildan ones, effectively collapsing the amount of tees that I have in my drawers. To illustrate, I have three of the same blue tee from Primark. I can collapse them all into a single higher quality Gildan tee. This means less clothes, but will likely mean I can wash the majority of my clothes in a single wash as opposed to only half. That appeals to me for future potential travelling.

  2. Shirts I've been trying to break into the shirt game for a while but have been put off for a number of reasons. Mainly, I don't want to invest in a nice shirt when I could outgrow it in 6 months (thanks pull-ups, you tough-yet-rewarding dickheads). Not-nice and cheap shirts make me overheat rapidly. Ideally I want about three shirts. A flannel one, and two cotton of different colours. Combined with my tees I should be able to make a fair few outfits from that.

  3. Hoodie A project I've been tossing around in my head for a little while. I currently have three hoodies; work, weekend, and training. They're all also different brands and qualities. What I would ideally like to do, is purchase a good quality build of hoodie and then modify it so that the arms zip off. This means it becomes an all-year hoodie that's modular and adaptable so I can use it for travel, training, and commuting (or wearing around the house).

This is probably the easiest part to decide when to level up. Whenever I've decided that I'm sick to death of wearing a particular set of clothes, I'll allocate some of next months' budget to condensing the wardrobe in a particular fashion.

TBC

This post has been the product of a morning's reflective journalling, and I'll likely have some leftover itches to scratch and reflect on. So I might update the post when I know more about what I want. Until then, this is more than enough to strive towards in the quest of my life :-P

reflection minimalism journalling challenge purchases budgeting levelling up

25 Aug 2017, 09:02

Decluttering Update

This year I've really been on a decluttering journey. I've gotten into taking a more minimalist approach to my personal space, and throwing away lots of stuff I didn't need. I think I've written about it this year already, but I can't be bothered to search for the previous posts and link them. Sorry.

I'm writing this at the end of a pretty good, purposeful week. One might think, then, that this post will be full of profound reflection and insight. Actually, I'm knackered and I can't think of what I want to write. So I'm just doing an update on my decluttering goals at the moment :-P

These efforts are, for the most part, concentrated within my bedroom. It's not bad at the moment, tbh. My partner says that "[I] have no stuff!" and that "[I] had hardly anything to begin with!". Take her words with a pinch of salt, though, as she is a clutter-bug. She loves clart. Anyway, I've completed a whole bunch of decluttering in the bedroom context:

  • Replaced a few of my low quality tees with ones of higher quality, and removed duplicate colours. (Basically halving my tees)
  • Got rid of a whole bunch of clothes I don't use
  • Learned the ranger roll and folding techniques so that all my upper body clothes fit into one half of a long drawer, and my underwear fits in the other half
  • Condensed my lower body clothes to a single set of work trousers, a single set of cargo trousers (for the weekend), and two pairs of bedtime / lounging shorts for around the house
  • Removed my branded and too-small hoodies, replacing them with an unmarked black one for simplicity.
  • Removed specialist shoes and taken to wearing a single set of medium quality hiking shoes for all occasions, as I'm lucky enough so that I don't need formal shoes.
  • Reduced the redundancy of my training gear so that it's only one set, which gets integrated into a weekend wash. It also occupies only one half of a long drawer inc. training shoes.
  • Removed or drastically reduced items in the dried food store in my cupboard, moving them to the kitchen context.
  • Moved all my craft gear into the cupboard
  • Removed my desk, and desk chair, replacing it with a small end table which holds everything and I can sit on the floor.
  • Moved my portable storage drawers to inside the cupboard and reduced items in them so that two drawers are unoccupied.
  • Removed all items from under the bed, either placing them in appropriate slots or discarding them. Bed now acts as the holding pen for my bags, which are in constant rotation so do not accumulate dust.
  • Removed posters that weren't bringing me joy.

I've also made similar efforts in the main room. Although this by its nature is limited to the presence of my bookcase. I've been removing all of the physical books for which I have a Kindle-readable copy of, providing it's of a decent formatting. I donated the books to charity. The effect was significant, and there are only two shelves occupied on my bookshelf now. To compensate for the removal of these redundant copies, I bought a USB memory stick to store regular back-ups of my digital library.

I don't know whether there should be any closing remarks, now. I guess that the only thing to say is that this is only half the battle, and that maintenance is key. Already during my decluttering phase I've bought new items -- a few books here and there, and a Hangiri. The difference is, that all these things are serving an explicit role and purpose for me (at least at the moment). I'm enjoying removing all the stuff I don't like, keeping the stuff that has purpose to me or brings me joy, and filling the place with plants.

If I do anything interesting soon I'll write about it. I don't think my landlord will help me store the bed so I can replace it with a folding futon, but we'll see.

minimalism plants declutter space updates